Book Review: Permanence

Jen Cray, Ink19 Magazine

March 2008

In an age where 18-year-old kids have already acquired full sleeves and tattoo shops are as common as Starbucks, Kip Fulbeck is attempting to re-examine what it is about the art of ink on skin that attracts such a vast array of people.

The book’s concept is a simple one—photos of tattooed people and a hand-written explanation of their artwork on the opposite page. At first glance the images and artwork don’t necessarily impress. The tattoos are often badly done and faded with age. For example, there’s an anonymous woman with a small pair of footprints tattooed on her hip. “Why would this end up in a tattoo book?” I wonder.

On the next page I read, “My first tattoo is baby foot prints with the due date below it. I was 18 yrs old and had an abortion. Although I was young I know I made a mistake …”

Another page depicts a smiling 60-year-old woman with barely legible numbers on her forearm. “I got my tattoo in Auschwitz on my 17th birthday,” her story reads.

Permanence is not a celebration of the greatest artworks ever applied to flesh, nor is it merely a picture book of celebrities and their tats. Some of the faces will be familiar (Joan Jett, Scott Weiland, Paul Stanley), and some of the tattoos will surely impress, but what this collection conveys are the reasons behind the compulsion to get something permanently set into your skin. Every piece of ink has a story and it all adds up to who we are as people.

The eyes are not the only windows into the soul, not for those who are inked anyway.

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